MN Senate passes revised Real ID bill

Minnesota’s effort to comply with the federal Real ID law has been resurrected at the state Capitol.

The Senate has passed a modified version of the Real ID implementation bill that it voted down several weeks ago. The vote late Thursday night was 60 to 7.

The latest Senate bill would still begin the process of putting Minnesota drivers’ licenses in line with federal standards. But it leaves out a contentious section related to administrative rule making.

Many DFL Senators feared that the language in that section of the bill would block unauthorized immigrants’ ability to someday obtain drivers’ licenses. Current rules prevent the issuing of licenses to unauthorized immigrants.

The bill’s author, Sen. Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake, said he always wanted the immigrant issue separate from Real ID.

“By striking the rule making it doesn’t change that,” Pratt said. “It keeps it as a separate issue. What it does do is it makes it harder for the department to implement the Real ID. They’re going to have to come back to the Legislature next year and ask us for specific rule making authority then.”

Some lawmakers remain concerned about the collection of personal data under Real ID. During the floor debate, Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, repeated his longstanding objections to the federal requirements.

“Once we go into this agreement, we don’t come out,” Limmer said.

The Senate Real ID bill is now at odds with the House version, which puts into statute the current administrative rules that prohibit licenses for unauthorized immigrants.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said the conference committee negotiations on Real ID will be a challenge.

“The House is a little firmer on some of the issues that we tried to keep clean. We’ll see how that negotiation goes. But we want to keep moving it forward.”

Rep. Dennis Smith, R-Maple Grove, the chief sponsor of the House Real ID bill, said he’s ready to start negotiating. Smith said he believes a compromise can be reached that separates the two issues.

“Real ID is about Minnesotans flying on airplanes, it’s not about giving undocumented residents a driver’s license,” Smith said. “So if we can find a way to separate those issues, that’s what Minnesotans want and what Minnesotans deserve.”